Curious Cajun: Weird Laws in Louisiana

Julia Guillbeau and Nicole Mistretta

@juliaguilb

@MistrettaNicole

Feature photo: Photo by James deMers. Photo provided by Pixabay.

Louisiana as a state is often known for its eccentrics, from jazz to crawfish to Mardi Gras. Yet, sometimes these extraordinary traditions call for extraordinary regulations.

Keeping with these oddities, there are still several laws included in the civil code of Louisiana that may have some raising their eyebrows. While some of these laws deal with the history and culture of Louisiana, some are preventative measures, keeping citizens safe from any random crimes or offenses.

Take a look at some surprising laws below.

  • Certain Food Can Be Prepared in a Traditional Manner

According to 40:4.1-4.4, and 4.9, specified foods may be prepared in a “traditional manner” for public consumption, including the use of wood fires and iron pots specifically. Food prepared “traditionally” must also follow the sanitary code. 
These foods include jambalaya, “cochon de lait,” crab, italian food, and other low-risk homemade foods. This law pertains primarily to the making and consumption of food prepared outside.

  • Bear Wrestling is Illegal

According to revised statute (RS) 14:102.10, a person who is guilty of bear wrestling shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned for no more than 6 months, or in some cases, both. 

A bear wrestling match is a contest between one or more people and a bear, with the intention to fight or physically engage. A person can be charged with bear wrestling if they are found to be promoting or engaging in a bear wrestling match, or if they are receiving money for others to watch the match. Buying or training a bear for a bear wrestling match can also lead to being charged. 

  • Unauthorized Ordering of a Good or Service is Illegal

A person who intentionally places an order for any good or service to be given to another person may be fined up to $500, imprisoned up to six months, or both, according to RS 14:68.6,.

A person guilty of unauthorized ordering provides the good or service to someone who does not approve, does not want it, or is required to pay for it and did not know at the time of ordering. If the person who placed the order intends to harass the receiver after distribution, the law is also applicable. 

  • Theft of Timber 

Stealing timber, specifically, in the state has its own law and repercussions. If a person steals timber worth more than $25,000, they can face up to 10 years in prison. If the stolen timber is worth less than $25,000, the individual can still face up to 5 years in prison, according to RS 14:67.2.

The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for assisting in the investigation of stolen timber.

  • Creation of a Human-Animal Hybrid is Illegal

According to RS 14:89.6, it is unlawful for any person to “knowingly” create or attempt to create a human-animal hybrid. Violators of this law may be imprisoned with hard labor for up to 10 years, fined up to $10,000, or both. 

A human-animal hybrid is the mixture of human and non-human cells and embryos to create life.

  • Contaminating the Water Supply Intentionally is Illegal

According to RS 14:58, intentionally contaminating any private or public water supply through any act is illegal.

Violators who contaminate the water supply without endangering life or health of human beings are fined up to $500, imprisoned with or without hard labor up to five years, or both. Violators who commit the act and endanger the health of human beings are fined up to $1,000, imprisoned with or without hard labor for up to 20 years, or both. 

  • No Fake Boxing Allowed

Faking or “shamming” boxing in a club contest is not legal, and could suspend the participant from any contest by a licensed club in the state if they are caught. The first offense suspends the contestant for six months while the second totally disqualifies, according to RS 4:76.

If the referee believes the contestant to be “faking,” they will warn them three times before disqualifying them. This law, however, does not apply to those participating in professional boxing matches.

  • Dog Racing Prohibited

According to RS 4:249, the business of conducting dog races is prohibited.

  • Illegal to Ingesting Blood or Waste During Rituals

According RS 14:107.1, the ingestion of human or animal blood or waste is considered “destructive of the peace, health, morals, and safety” of Louisiana citizens and is prohibited. Persons guilty may be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned up to five years, or both.

  • Cockfighting is Prohibited

According to RS 14:102.23, organizing or conducting a commercial or private cockfight is illegal. “Cockfighting” is a display of combat between one or more domestic or feral chickens in which the animals may be injured or killed. 

Persons guilty of first-offense cockfighting will be fined no less than $750 and no more than $2,000, imprisoned for no less than six months and no more than one year, or both. Persons guilty of second offense cockfighting will be fined between $1,000 and $2,000, imprisoned between one and three years without parole, probation or suspension for six months.

Why Are Such Specific Laws Still In The State Constitution? 

While some of these laws seem frivolous, John Henchy, a Baton Rouge lawyer and Certified Public Accountant in Louisiana, said any laws that have some applicability will not be repealed. If a legislator removes a law that then causes an issue, they could be held responsible, according to Henchy.

“These legislators are very political animals. They don’t want to go out on a limb on anything. Anything that could ever come back and bite them… they’ve got other things to do and they don’t want to be responsible [for something bad happening],” Henchy said. 

Senator Franklin Foil, a former House member, said legislators want to focus on filing legislation to affect the future. The limited time in session and effort required places repealing obsolete laws in low priority, according to Senator Foil.

“The bottom line is most legislators have a limited amount of time and bills they can bring. Their priorities are going to be ahead of just getting rid of obsolete laws. Quite frankly constituents are not calling you about those problems.”

According to Senator Foil, certain groups like the Louisiana Law Institute study laws and make recommendations to senators in the form of one big bill which addresses the repealing of obsolete laws. 

Any potentially controversial laws, even if outdated or obscure, will remain on the books because “no one wants to be associated with the repeal of that kind of law”, according to Henchy. Senator Foil said he’s seen controversial, obsolete laws go un-repealed because legislators do not want to seem in support of the circumstance.

Louisiana, A Law of Its Own

From the beginning of its induction as a state, Louisiana always had its own unique system of law. While other states use common law, Louisiana is based on the Napoleonic code, which focuses on using statutes and laws to judge court cases instead of looking to previous court decisions like the rest of the U.S. 

Kara Patton, a Louisiana History professor at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, said the use of this style of law comes mainly from its unique roots as a state. 

“That was a compromise that was done to bring Louisiana in as a state. So you had not only sort of a French influence of the Napolenic law but you also had the Spanish influence and they had their own laws,” said Patton. 

The use of the Napoleonic code bred laws that were sometimes very different from the rest of the United States, according to Patton, especially in local city and municipal governments. 

“That’s why it’s difficult for lawyers from other states to go and get admitted to the bar here because there’s a lot of different laws than the other 49 states,” Senator Foil said. 

Henchy said when Louisiana had a smaller legislative body would have been easier to implement weird laws. Now, laws must pass through the House and Senate 

“As time went on, it [became] more difficult to amend laws because you have more players in the game…. The effect of that is, as time goes on, it becomes more difficult to change things because you have more people involved.”

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